For our last edition of Instagrammable-worthy spots in Singapore, we celebrate Dakota Crescent's photographic locations before the neighbourhood is gone for good
Urban development’s a bittersweet issue here in Singapore. In the name of improving the city’s landscape and infrastructure, old public housing estates have been either demolished or completely refurbished. And to the chagrin of many, the iconic neighbourhood of Dakota Crescent’s next up on the list for redevelopment.
It’s easy to see why so many are fighting for its preservation. Built in 1958, Dakota Crescent’s brimming with old-world charm. Instead of standard high-rise HDB flats, the estate is made up of 17 charming, brick-clad, low-level walk-ups and curved “butterfly” blocks. Sadly, these flats have had little maintenance over the years, resulting in rickety lifts and rusty staircases. Today, the neighbourhood is a shadow of its buzzing past – most of its residents (mainly the elderly) have relocated, leaving the estate quiet and isolated. Before Dakota Crescent completely disappears, we visited the rustic neighbourhood’s most photo-worthy nooks and crannies.
Chances are, Block 26 will be the first thing you’ll see upon entering Dakota Crescent. The low-rise walk-up features balconies in each house, and mosaic tiling to keep light in. At our time of visit, it appeared that most residents have moved out, leaving abandoned and unlocked houses in their wake. Despite its small size, they’re truly unique, architectural gems; pictured in the gallery is a house on the top floors with sloping roofs and wide balconies which look out onto the estate.
Block 28’s one of the eight iconic “butterfly” blocks in the estate with curved façades, alternating balconies and perpendicular wings at its posterior. Look out for this brilliant blue balcony amidst a primarily neutral palette.
Dove playground at block 10
This iconic dove playground is one of the oldest in Singapore. Built in 1979 by the same minds behind Toa Payoh’s famed dragon playground, the weathered landmark’s nostalgic charm lies in its faded blue tiled appearance, sand pit, tyre swings and terrazzo slides.
Another low-rise walk-up you’d find in the estate is Block 24. Its brick-clad walls, unique stairwells (the pink tile-like pictured in the gallery was explicitly designed to allow light in while offering shade) and nostalgic wooden folding doors are no longer seen in modern HDB housing.
Block 18’s not for the faint-hearted. Located behind the dove playground, the property’s mostly empty as majority of its residents have moved out. The elevator, with its dim lighting and protruding buttons, is a rickety relic of the past which offers herky-jerky rides. If you choose to take the stairs, head to the ones by the sides of the flat with their rusty, metal railings. At the suggestion of a friend, we wandered into a graffiti-covered house on the fourth floor (accessible via the main stairwell). We didn’t dare step inside for more than a few minutes.
If you’re a heartland cafe junkie, chances are you’d be mourning the loss of Tian Kee & Co. Formerly an old-school provision shop, the cafe preserved its history with old remnants of its past, like its rusty metal gates and old Milo tins behind the cashier (once used for collecting payments). Other former tenants of the block’s first floor included Chinese clinics, while residents were made up of store owners.
Balconies of Dakota Crescent’s blocks
It’s a pleasure to stroll along the estate and marvel at the old-world architecture here. The most outstanding feature? The unique balconies you won’t see elsewhere on the island. The taller, concave flats feature rows of pastel, retro-fitted wooden doors at its balconies. One of such is Block 28. Head to the back as that’s where you’ll see a curious combination of gritty and pretty balconies in an array of pastels. Some are gated by chest-high iron grills – a charming throwback to the old days where neighbourhood communities were incredibly tight and trusting of each other.
Special shoutout: Cats of Dakota Crescent
One can’t speak of Dakota Crescent without mentioning the estate’s cats; the furry felines of the precinct are longtime icons of the neighbourhood. With most of the district’s residents relocated, these community cats may be left uncared for. Head here if you’re keen on fostering or adopting these precious kitties, or to simply get the word out.